It's hard to believe that baby boomers were once a part of the counterculture that defined the 1960s, participating in the sex and substance experimentation they'd rail against later in life. And if there’s one event that best encapsulates the generation’s hippie past, it’s Woodstock, the three-day festival in the Catskill mountains that drew 400,000 of them together in 1969.
Woodstock holds a special place in our cultural history, and now the festival industry is a billion-dollar business, so it’s no wonder its creators have tried to rebottle the lightning of that magical weekend a number of times over the years. With the PR nightmare of Woodstock ’99 all but forgotten and festival-fatigued millennials tiring of seeing the same artists on every billing, Woodstock’s organizers are pulling out all the stops for a 50th anniversary blowout. Packed with legacy acts like John Fogerty and contemporary icons like Jay-Z, the lineup for the August 16-18, 2019 event dropped last week and was met with mixed reactions. Could a roster so clearly curated to appeal to both the Coachella and “Oldchella” crowds be too weird a mix of artists to appeal to both generations?
To better gauge Woodstock 50’s allure, we talked to Boomers who attended the original weekend back in ’69. They were happy to share their opinions on the lineup’s artists, how they imagine the two weekends will compare, and whether or not this nostalgia trip is something they’d attend.
“I have no idea who most of these artists are, to be honest. I saw Melanie is going to be there. The Dead are doing it and they didn’t even play at the original. Country Joe is coming but without the Fish. This is going to appeal to a different generation.”
“The amenities will probably be better [at Woodstock 50]. I hope kids avail themselves of the medics. At the original, I was walking around limping and knew I had something in my foot so I went to the medical tent and got a thorn removed that was already abscessing.”
“The food will likely be better too. There wasn’t enough food at the original. Joan Baez brought this thing of blue cheese with her backstage and nobody was eating it, so when she went on, she just threw it out to the crowd and everyone just began fighting for pieces, they were so hungry.”
“I don’t know if they’re selling VIP tickets to this one. The people I know would want to come with a trailer on site and get more of a luxury experience. I’m not going to go hang out for three days in the mud. I’ll pass.”
- Lois Weiss, New York, NY
I’m somewhat impressed. Going up this lineup, there’s only a few names I recognize from my era. You got Santana, Robert Plant, Fogerty, Melanie. Younger acts? Like I say, I’m very versed in music. I listen to Spotify all the time. Killers, Lumineers, I know a lot of these bands. Maggie Rogers, I like. You got Portugal the Man, Gary Clark Jr.—love him. And on day 3, who doesn’t know Jay-Z, Imaginary Dragons [sic], and Halsey? Again, these are people I listen to. I’m into a lot of different music. A few of these… Larkin Poe—I have no idea who that is.”
“To be honest with you, going to concerts, there’s always a lot of fighting. There was alcohol up there [at the original Woodstock], and I’m only 16 years old. I experimented with pot and whatnot. I’m not saying I was an angel, but that’s as far as I went as far as drugs were concerned. People just pass all sorts of stuff out to you at these concerts, though. But if you gave me three free tickets, no, I wouldn’t go. I’d be more fearful of the way kids are now. You look at somebody the wrong way, they’re gonna pick a fight with you.”
It was a hell of an experience, though, and I hope people get to experience something like what I did.
- Chuck Iasillo, West Chester, NY
“As I look through these names, of course there are people like Miley Cyrus and such who are famous now. The older names I’m like wow, they’re going to be there? They’re still playing? Who knew? Country Joe, Canned Heat was there. There’s a lot of people here I don’t know, though. It’s really nice that there’s a lot of people that are a part of that old generation as well as new people because music has changed a lot in 50 years, that’s for sure.”
“Part of the fun of that kind of concert is you’re going to see a lot of people you don’t know. Let’s say you go to see David Crosby and Friends, but you end up staying to see the band after, Dawes, or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. My feeling is that if you love music, you’re going to love some of this other music.”
“Our generation, the Baby Boom generation, there was a lot of us, and this is the first time we all showed up for something, so it was a total surprise. Nobody knew what to expect. I remember sitting in my car looking out over the whole crowd and it was kind of mind-blowing when the radio came on and said “Woodstock has been temporarily declared the second-largest city in the state and is being classified as a disaster zone.” It’s hard for me to imagine it happening again, having that many people camped out somewhere.”
“I’m sure the new one will have amenities that we didn’t have, especially for hygiene and sanitation. It was pretty sparse. After two or three days we were starting to need a shower and I asked around for one and somebody said, “no, there’s no shower, but there’s this pond over there where you can go skinny dipping.” So, we go down to that pond, and I’ll just say I’d like that pond in my heaven. I’ve never seen that many naked women in my life and I’ll never see that many again.”
“I don’t think they hand out drugs today like they did back then. I remember sitting in this school bus with half the seats taken out and mattresses in the back and this guy comes down the aisle telling his menu, “mescaline, LSD,” and whatever else was around. And that was the first time I ever tripped. Thought I’d be a hot-shot and just take it.”
- Arthur Edelmann, Eugene, Oregon
“An impressive lineup, although I confess that I am not familiar with all of the artists. Seems the organizers were aiming to please a wide demographic.
I feel it is important to hear music live, not streamed, and so I am in favor of the performing artist and the audience support.
When the original Woodstock happened, it was at a time and place that was absolutely exploding musically. I don’t think that can ever be replicated, and we honor that time by not trying to duplicate, rather we can reflect upon the magic that was, and then support new artists who have something to say about our lives and times.
And so, I will not go to the 50th anniversary, but I do look back fondly at my time at Woodstock when I was this fourteen-year-old Canadian girl, who unknowingly found herself at The Farm, wandering around on my own, feeling safe in the embrace of the music and the people who were so in love with life, and the hope that the world was ready for change.”
- Brenda Stevenson, Village of Sturgeon Point, Ontario
“I don’t know any of these new guys, and I’m someone with music always on! Portugal—there’s one. Janelle Monae, I love her. A lot of these people are rappers, aren’t they? I knew every single one of the bands at the first concert. I loved them all. This one, I know maybe not even half. I’m 71 now. These aren’t my people.”
“I went to the first one because I was a hippie. I was a bus person. I went with Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm. I see this one is scheduled for all the way in August, whereas, with the first one, I hooked up with Wavy and the Merry Pranksters with like two days’ notice.”
“If I was going to go, it’d be to day one. The second day, The Dead’s playing and I lived with The Grateful Dead and was not a big fan. They’re all gone anyway. We were at the overdose tent for a while. We all got overdosed. I don’t remember a lot of the first one, but I do remember it being magical. This doesn’t look magical to me. It looks too planned. It reminds me of Coachella, which Woodstock was not like.”
- Jeanne Bertsch, Los Angeles, CA